Planet Watch
anarchy

Podcast: for pragmatic anarchism

In Episode 93 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg responds to the request from Patreon subscriber and legendary folksinger Dave Lippman to discuss the contemporary significance of anarchism. Weinberg cites recent examples of an “anarcho-pragmatism” that aspires to libertarian socialism but also works toward concrete victories in the here-and-now: the Zapatistas in Mexico, piqueteros in Argentina, the Rojava Kurds and other liberatory elements of the Syrian Revolution, and Occupy Wall Street in New York. Since last year’s Black Lives Matter uprising, anarchist ideas have started to enter mainstream discourse—such as calls for “decarceration” and to abolish the police. Weinberg also makes note of pointed criticisms of some contemporary anarchist thought from the Marxist-Humanists. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Image: Nicolas Raymond via Flickr)

The Caribbean
Havana

Podcast: how do we respond to the Cuba protests?

In Episode 80 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg examines the actual politics of the Cuban protests—and how much of the response by supposedly progressive forces in the United States has been highly problematic. While opposing the embargo, and the inevitable attempts by US imperialism to exploit and co-opt the protests, we must guard against words and actions that abet the repression. Hundreds have been detained and at least one person killed as the protests have been put down by security forces. By uncritically rallying around the regime and portraying the protests as CIA astroturf, we not only make ourselves complicit with rights abuses—we help bring about exactly what we fear, showing the protesters that their only allies in the US are on the political right. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo via Mal Salvaje)

Africa
eswatini

Uprising and repression in Eswatini

The government of Eswatini, Africa’s last absolute monarchy, has launched what Amnesty International calls a “ruthless crackdown” in response to pro-democracy protests, with dozens killed and many others tortured, detained or abducted. Protests broke out last month, following the mysterious death of a 25-year-old law student, Thabani Nkomonye, in May, allegedly at the hands of the police. In late June, these protests grew into daily marches in several cities and towns around the kingdom. While the demonstrations were mostly peaceful, there were instances in which businesses linked to the monarchy were looted and torched. The protests have waned since the wave of repression was unleashed, but the opposition People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) pledges to carry on the struggle. (Photo: Swazi students from University of Pretoria protest at Eswatini embassy. Via Twitter)

Planet Watch
BLM

UN: end systemic racism in law enforcement

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet urged states to dismantle systematic racism against African and African-descendent peoples, in a report focusing on law enforcement around the world. The report features an analysis of 190 deaths at the hands of law enforcement, including George Floyd and Breonna Taylor in the United States, as well as cases in the United Kingdom, France, Brazil and Colombia. “The status quo is untenable,” Bachelet said. “Systemic racism needs a systemic response… We need a transformative approach that tackles the interconnected areas that drive racism, and lead to repeated, wholly avoidable, tragedies like the death of George Floyd.” (Photo: The Village Sun)

New York City
NYPD

New York City passes major police reforms

The New York City Council passed five bills and three resolutions aiming to increase the transparency and accountability of the New York Police Department (NYPD). One bill ended qualified immunity for police officers, meaning that individual officers may be sued for rights violations. The move makes New York the first US city to ban the use of qualified immunity for police officers. The legislation creates a new “local civil right,” protecting residents from unreasonable searches and seizures as well as from the use of excessive force. Another measure requires the NYPD to issue quarterly reports on vehicle stops, including information on the demographics of targeted drivers, whether vehicles were searched with or without consent, and other information. (Photo: CounterVortex)

New York City
BLM

New York AG sues NYPD over excessive force

New York State Attorney General Letitia James filed suit in federal court against the New York City Police Department over its handling of peaceful protests and use of excessive force. In her complaint, James charged that the NYPD unjustifiably used pepper-spray and batons against Black Lives Matter protesters in violation of official department policies, asserting that such action caused protesters to suffer both physical and psychological harm. Additionally, James charged that officers corralled protesters without an opportunity to disperse, resulting in mass arrests without probable cause. James stated that this use of excessive force violated protesters’ First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights. (Photo: The Village Sun)

Watching the Shadows
Capitol

Podcast: Stop the Coup! II

In Episode 61 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg warns that following Trump’s instrumented right-wing insurrection at the Capitol building, violence in the final lead-up to Inauguration Day could provide the expedient for execution of his long-planned coup d’etat—precisely as had been foreseen in the novel It Can’t Happen Here. Despite fascist-abetting denialism from elements of the “left,” even members of Congress are now asserting that the ransacking of the Capitol was carried out with complicity of elements of the security forces. Republicans meanwhile engage in despicable propaganda that equates the insufficient Democratic support for the Black Lives Matter uprising or protests against ICE putting kids in cages with Republican support for an attempted right-wing putsch. The statement by the Joint Chiefs of Staff holds out hope that leaders in the Pentagon may refuse Trump’s orders. But a popular outcry to #StopTheCoup could be critical in giving them the courage to do so. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Image: Tyler Merbler/WikiMedia)

Europe
paris protest

France: mass protests over new security law

Police and demonstrators clashed in Paris as some 45,000 filled the streets to protest a new security law, with large mobilizations also seen in Bordeaux, Lille, Montpellier and Nantes. The new law would severely restrict publishing of the images of police officers. The issue was given greater urgency by video footage of Paris police savagely beating local Black music producer Michel Zecler days earlier. President Emmanuel Macron said the images “shame us,” but critics point out that their release could have been barred if his new security law had already been in force. (Photo: @T_Bouhafs)

Watching the Shadows
headlines

Targeted disinformation neutralizes US left

Progressives in the United States show little awareness of the disinformation specially targeting them. Denialism about Russian interference in the US elections is now translating into denialism about how dangerous the Trump presidency is. In 2016, we saw Russian-promoted “left” sites and writers post memes and articles that trashed Hillary Clinton, equated Clinton and Trump, or even portrayed Clinton as the worse choice. They dominated “Leftbook” social media and helped depress the progressive vote—a decisive factor in Trump’s win. We are seeing a replay now. Biden and Harris are denounced far more than Trump on some “left” sites, while Trump’s incipient fascism is downplayed. This influence has also been felt in the appalling lack of protest against Trump. Through his round-ups of undocumented immigrants, his abandonment of climate and arms control treaties, the impeachment, progressives failed to fill the streets—until the Black Lives Matter uprising, bringing a new and different leadership to the fore. In a presentation for Women’s March Minnesota, longtime activist Terry Burke examines how the US left is in danger of being manipulated and neutralized by a sophisticated online propaganda campaign, facilitated by the Kremlin and its media arms and corporate enablers like Facebook. (Image: TerryBurke)

Africa
#EndSARS

Anti-police uprising rocks Nigeria

Protesters continue to fill the streets of Lagos in defiance of a round-the-clock curfew imposed after the Lekki Massacre, when soldiers and police fired on demonstrators who were occupying a toll bridge. Authorities initially dismissed the massacre as “fake news,” but now acknowledge that at least 38 were killed by security forces. The massacre only succeeded in escalating what had been a peaceful protest campaign against police brutality into a general uprising. Several buildings were set on fire or ransacked, including banks, the television headquarters, port facilities, and the palace of the Oba of Lagos, the traditional ruler of the city. Protests have also spread to Akure and other cities. President Muhammadu Buhari appeared on TV to appeal for “understanding and calm,” but also admonished the international community to “know all the facts” before condemning his government. Nigerian netizens are dismissing his address as “12 minutes of nonsense.” (Photo: Sahara Reporters)

Watching the Shadows
Xinjiang

China elected to UN rights council: Orwellian irony

In another one to file under #OrwellWouldShit, the UN General Assembly elected China to the Human Rights Council—despite the country holding some one million Uighur Muslims in concentration camps. The General Assembly also elected Russia, Cuba, Uzbekistan and Pakistan—all similarly accused of human rights violations, if not quite such ambitious ones. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo criticized the election of countries with “abhorrent human rights records.” A week before the General Assembly vote, China’s UN ambassador Zhang Jun read a statement before the body, denouncing the US for “systematic racial discrimination and violence,” which was endorsed by 25 other nations—including Russia, Iran and North Korea. Of course the perverse irony of this is that Pompeo and Zhang are both correct. And therefore neither has any moral credibility to criticize the other. (Photo: Xinjiang Judicial Administration via The Diplomat)

New York City
Bronx

Human rights violations seen in NYPD repression

The NYPD’s violent mass arrest of peaceful protesters in the South Bronx violated international human rights law and will likely cost New York City taxpayers millions of dollars in lawsuits, according to a new investigation by Human Rights Watch. The in-depth report examines the June incident in the Mott Haven district, where hundreds of demonstrators were “kettled” behind barricades before being arrested. As riot police blocked protesters’ path minutes before Mayor Bill de Blasio’s 8 PM curfew, a second line of officers charged them from behind, “unprovoked and without warning, wielding batons, beating people from car tops, shoving them to the ground, and firing pepper spray into their faces before rounding up more than 250 people for arrest.” The report documents at least 61 cases of protesters, legal observers and bystanders who sustained injuries in the operation. HRW counts the incident as “among the most aggressive police responses to protests across the United States following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.” (Image: Human Rights Watch)